What we've lost
There is an undercurrent in East Nashville lately. It is sort of becoming an “us vs. them” situation. It’s the old-timers versus the newcomers. The old-timers are in survival mode and freak out over the slightest change, and the newcomers are all butt-hurt because they haven’t been completely welcomed with open arms after all they’ve done for property values and neighborhood amenities.
They think we are just a bunch of old fogies who are stuck in our ways. We think they just want to destroy everything. I think we are both wrong. I’m not against change. I’ll trade one Hair World for Nomzilla. Totally. Those blistered peppers — mmm! The newcomers have brought lots of good stuff, but what they aren’t able to comprehend is what we’ve lost.
Important things — like affordable housing. When I moved to East Nashville, I figured I would live here the rest of my life. I’ll be lucky if I make it in my rental through the end of the year. The rising costs have impacted our homeless population; elderly people are being taken advantage of; and people who need access to public transportation are losing jobs and access to resources as they are pushed further out.
And you can’t talk about affordable housing without talking about diversification. Seriously, what have you done with all the black people? I used to live across the street from a black church. Sunday mornings on my porch listening to the music was ritual. That church is gone now. So is the black barbershop on the other corner.
I remember standing outside one day chatting with the barber. He was saying how business was slow, and I chirped back that it would pick up. He told me, “No. The more of you that move in, the less customers I’ll have. I won’t make it the year.” I sent friends in for shaves after that, but he was right. He didn’t. And regardless of color, for every person we lose, we gain 10. Multifamily units on lots that originally contained single-family homes infuriate me. There are just too many people. There are traffic, lines, and crowds everywhere. Everything is jammed elbows to assholes.
And with all those people, there is no privacy left. They even build decks now on the second floors of those new houses that look right down over standing privacy fences. I still can’t figure out how that’s legal. It kind of defeats the purpose of a privacy fence by definition, doesn’t it? Four of them peer down in my backyard now. It’s lit up like Studio 54 back there. You want a show? I’ll give you a show!
We’ve lost the ability to drive anywhere. If you’re not risking your life on Gallatin, you are playing back road Tetris around all the construction sites. The side streets near popular areas are so congested that cars just get stuck there. Then there is parking. You’re either circling like a vulture or shelling out money. When did all the lots go to pay anyway? People are making money — that’s good, but people are also losing money.
People don’t understand why we get upset when they tear down “old” or “ugly” houses. I know for me personally, it’s gut-wrenching to watch a home that you worked in after the floods come down with the swipe of a bulldozer. It’s hard to not remember the people, tearing out drywall and flooring, trying to beat the clock against mold — all of us, together, with one purpose. Save that house. Save that dream. There isn’t a $9 coffee you can serve me that soothes that ouch.
And that is the main thing that we’ve lost — that sense of unity. There really was something magical about the unity of this neighborhood for a moment. There was no “us” and there was no “them.” It was just “we.” And personally, that’s the thing I miss the most.